Posted on: September 30th, 2012 Archives
Greetings from the end of the world.
We’re trying to get the archives back up, after a near-catastrophic loss owing to yet another effing infestation, this time with Emma Watson porn. Windows users, are you still being tempted with the offers of Ms. Watson’s succulent young flesh? We regret to say we cannot tell. Ah, WordPress.
Anyway, here are the archives, which we seem to have made work after some weird Motown database dogs in heat. Mail submissions at brainharvestmag if you notice anything super fucked up, by which we mean more fucked up than the sort of thing you had grown to expect.
Be good. If you’ve stumbled back on this msg after all this time, you’re a friend of ours.
Dear Brain Harvesters -
It’s with heavy hearts that we announce an end to our Brain Harvesting activities. It’s been a good run, but all good things must come to an end. The reasons for that end are myriad: one of us is departing for a trip around the world; one of us is entering the stretch run of a PhD program; and one of us is working not to murder the other two. These obligations, and others, make it impossible to give the site the attention it deserves, especially since we don’t show ads and have been funding operations out of our own pockets.
We know that getting your work out there can seem impossible if you’re not already known in the field of speculative fiction. It’s a vicious chicken-and-egg and it sucks, which is why in the three years BH has been live our mission has been to provide a venue for the kind of fiction we like, encourage new writers, and pay them. We feel pretty good about what we’ve accomplished in the course of that mission. We only wish we could have done it longer and better.
Thanks for reading us. We’ll see you around sometime.
by Douglas Hackle
THE BEGINNING THE BEGINNING THE BEGINNING THE BEGINNING
“What can I get you?” the pimply-faced teenaged boy working the Yummy Freeze service window said in a weary monotone.
“I’ll have a scoop of birdless in a regular cone,” the father said.
His son, a bright lad of seven, said, “I’ll take a double scoop of chair in a chocolate wafer cone.”
“We’re out of birdless and chair.” The attendant jabbed an index finger up at the dry-erase board on the wall. “We’re getting restocked tomorrow. Whatever’s left is written up on the board.”
The boy angled his head up at the list, began reading the flavors aloud: “Bird, elephant, elephantless, apotheosis, passive-aggressive, inasmuch, middle manager, incest taboo, cutesy, interpolation, platypus cunt, long drawn-out divorce, pluralism, fetal pony, bric-Ã -brac, gainsay, Manifest Destiny, dental insurance, self-abnegation, countermeasure, Socratic irony, brain cancer, heresy, en passant, Sting, self-immolation, ad majorem Dei gloriam, polar bear loverod, my son, my dad, and chocolate.”
“Ratdamnit,” the father cursed. “I wanted birdless. Guess I’ll try a scoop of my son. In a regular cone, please.”
“You?” the attendant asked the boy.
“I’ll take a double scoop of my dad in a chocolate wafer cone.”
“That’ll be five bucks even,” the attendant said. The father handed him the money.
“Oh,” the attendant added, “Since each of you is the key flavor ingredient in the other’s ice cream cone, I’ll need the two of you to come inside so I can make ice cream out of you. If you don’t mind.”
“We don’t,” the father said.
THE MIDDLE THE MIDDLE THE MIDDLE THE MIDDLE
Inside the little ice cream shop, the attendant led father and son to a machine that resembled some sort of oversized HVAC unit with two large hoppers on the top. The attendant instructed the two to ascend a ladder attached to the side of the machine. He told the father to lower himself into the hopper on the left, the son to climb into the hopper on the right. Once both were unsafely inside the hoppers, the attendant slapped a big red “ON” button on the side of the contraption.
“Be brave, son. I love you,” the father called out just before the floor of spiked metal rollers beneath his feet whirled to life, jerking him down into the crushing, cutting, rending bowels of the ice cream machine in an explosive splatcrunch of blood, tissue, and bone.
“I will be brave, Pappy. I loveâ€”” Splatcrunch!
The machine clanked, clenked, clinked, clonked, and clunked for over an hour, pulverizing father and son into grainy, pink pastes. The fatherpaste and the sonpaste oozed down into separate compartments located at the base of the machine, where they were slowly cooled and mixed with measured quantities of cream, milk, and sugar. When the hardened, pink ice cream was finally ready, the attendant pried a scoop of my son into a regular cone and a double scoop of my dad into a chocolate wafer cone.
The attendant slogged back to the front of the shop, stuck the two cones out the service window and let them go. Since father and son were not present to take their ice creams, the cones simply fell to the cement.
The attendant slid the window shut, flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED.
Just then, two homeless passersby noticed the upturned ice cream cones on the grimy sidewalk. One of these vagrants was “Stiles” (Michael J. Fox’s enterprising, party-animal, sunglasses-wearing buddy in 1985′s Teen Wolf). The other was that chain-smoking Indonesian toddler of more recent youtube fame.
The bums knelt on the sidewalk and hurriedly scraped up the upturned ice cream cones. Stiles gathered up the my dad cone. The smoking toddler grabbed the my son cone.
“What flavor you got?” Stiles asked his chubby-cheeked companion, who took a lick of ice cream after expelling a long dragonplume of white Marlboro smoke.
“Probably fetal pony, Stiles, but I never can tell.”
“I know whatcha mean. All ice cream sorta tastes like fetal pony.”
“All ice cream except for fetal pony-flavored ice creamâ€”mâ€”mparghhhg!” the smoking youngling corrected him, coughing up a few bloody chunks of youngling lung.
“Yeah, I nearly forgot. Fetal pony ice cream doesn’t taste like fetal ponies at all. Fetal pony ice cream tastes exactly like . . .”
“Manifest Destiny!” the two old friends said in unison and burst into pants-shitting laughter.
Just then the fucking earth finally and mercifully fucking exploded.
THE END THE END THE END THE END
Posted on: February 5th, 2012 The New Phone
By David Erik Nelson and Fritz Swanson
The phones had not always been grown in sun-labs along the Sri Lankan coast. But nowadays, when they warm up, they smell of curry, and of salt air, and of summer days.
The first units were bulky, ugly table top sets, like two toaster ovens wired to a car battery and a CB handset, the whole jumble painted standard-issue OD green and stenciled in block Kangi. The Japanese had developed them as emergency communicators for their coast guard, future to past.
Calls were restricted, officer-to-officer, preferably one man to himself, and only on the limited topic of import. No one was clear as to the implications of these warnings and everyone was universally worried: Tokyo, Washington, London, The Brisbane Commonwealth, Singapore, Kinshasa. But you could only call back to the same unit as it existed in the past. So, figure everything is localized. Shrug.
And it had saved lives. It had been used secretly in a few brush wars along the coast of Mexico during the invasion in ’37, and nothing untoward had happened.
Or at least no one had reported anything strange.
At the Battle of El Paso, as Somali Grenadiers marched through the streets, a thousand local Texas Regulars were saved what seems to have been three times in a row as they worked through several ambush strategies live and with full TRPM kit at hand. Of course, it’s hard to say, but the recordings now show the Texas Regulars swooping down on black gliders, their rifles loaded for bear with depleted uranium cased shells, their music grenades detonating flashes of Aaron Copeland in cascading sonic flickers.
It was Vasilev Wang, the famous leader of the People’s Corporate Ukrainian University, who developed a strategy for growing the boards, and to spoof the tachyon signature, making phone-to-phone calls possible across time.
Cheaper. More robust. Consumer grade.
Firefighters bought them. Search and rescue teams. Hospitals were required, by the Temporal Convention of 2053, to have one in every surgery and every triage center.
Then celebrities bought them.
And the rich.
And yuppies, and tired parents, and teenagers. And the costs came down. And finally people just started calling themselves.
Have you ever masturbated with a thousand other yous on the phone?
In the future, we will all be having sex with the prom queen. We will all have red horses to ride off into the plains and have adventures. Beautiful explosions will accompany our love-making. Fire that opens up in the air like the petals of a terrible flower.
In the future, we’ll make a point of calling ourselves back everyday to lie about the recent past, to sugar coat the unpleasantness.
I have been told that I have only had sex once so far since buying the phone, but she and I both wore wireless headsets at the time, taking calls from all selves at all times. I forget her name, but in the moment of passion, as we locked together:
“Uh huh, exactly. Yes. It is exactly. Right. There. Yes. And move that button on your blouse, it will give you a scar if you leave it that way. Oh. Yes. To the back of the cupboard. Stop it. No. Yes. Please.”
Once is enough. Once is for always.
The dominant power on earth is Congo. They have refused our repeated offer of TRPM phones, even free offers, free air-time time-time minutes, even subsidies for taking them. They smile. They hold up a hand to thank us. They shake their heads. But they are kind rulers, the Congolese. They leave us with our phones.
There are a thousand tiny holes in the air, and from out of those holes a billion electric bats have erupted, and at the center of the city, as the density of phones increase, the sky flips from blue to orange, and from orange to a white black, and out of the gaping maw of the starless night, there are unspoken sounds, music which plays inside of your eyes, and the writhing, shimmering, undulating, glimmering, twisted teseract creatures, who unfold inside of your skull as they walk through your torso, have spread out mathematically from a singularity inside of city hall.
The dimensionless Other licks out across the landscape like a cool blue fire.
And from out of the ovoid gap between moments, a Crystaline He steps forth.
He is beautiful.
But it is silly to resist. It has always been this way. Always.
by An Owomoyela
I went a little crazy when the squid washed up on Mission Beach, and not for the reasons everyone else did. I wasn’t bothered by the oil-tanker size of the thing, or the eyes that kept roving even as it rotted. The tentacles, twining in and out of Euclidean space, gave me a headache but not the usual night terrors. No, I lost it because when I saw the squid, when I wandered, sleepless and caffeine-deprived, onto the morning-cold sand, I felt like I’d stumbled on the corpse of a cousin in an alley. Staring from a familiar dead face.
My plan had been to get some fresh air, go in, start coffee, and wake my latest new girlfriend, Greta. But the fresh air smelled like rotting squid and Greta woke me, slapping my face while I lay on the cold sand. I shook her off and sat up. I was soaked.
“Kelly,” she said. “What the hell is wrong with you? You ran into the Pacific Ocean and punched a dolphin.”
I said I didn’t think that was something you could just do. For one thing, I couldn’t swim.
“Well, just look.” Greta grabbed my hand and showed me the split knuckles. A couple were bruised dolphin-blue.
Yeah, but that could have been anything, I said. That could have been a weird masturbatory accident.
Greta gave me a long, strange look. “The two of us are never sleeping together,” she said. “Ever.”
That was the first time I’d been to the coast. My family moved to the Midwest generations ago â€“ the farthest point they could find from a body of water. I never went sailing. Kayaking. Swimming. We never went to SeaWorld. A water park. A lake. My mother vetoed every class trip that could put me within a day’s walk of water.
I got here and I wanted to walk into the water. Walk until the surf closed over my head.
My mother said the water would mess with me. “Family curse,” she said. Want to guess how many of my relatives have been lost at sea?
I went out again while cleanup crews were sawing the squid up to be transported for disposal. Their chainsaws whined until they got gummed up with flesh, and the workers with their splatter masks retreated up the beach to clean out the chains. One of the tentacles fell off while I was watching, plopping into the murky water, and curled once or twice. The damn thing was beckoning to me.
“It’s something, huh?” a worker said. “Unreal.”
Too real. Too familiar.
You ever seen that messed-up Japanese woodcut? The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife? The first time I saw it, I felt like I’d walked in on my grandparents having sex.
I could hear, from the house’s balcony, dolphins chittering in the waves. I swear they were laughing as the squid rotted, and the squid’s eye rolled up to look at me. The dolphins wouldn’t leave the beach alone.
My theory? There’s a war going on. The ocean vs. the squamous elder things. And the elder things are losing â€“ there’s the airport-sized stingray that beached itself in the Cardiff Bay, the kraken-whale rotting in the ocean by Micronesia. They say it was covered with shark bites.
That’s a good thing, right? The good guys are winning, if you want to call the most vicious ecosystem in the world “the good guys.” That squid probably didn’t. It was probably brooding in some sunken city for centuries, not hurting anyone, before it washed up here. And it needed me. It called to me. I wanted to walk into its tentacles, like I’d walk into the Pacific, like I’d let it close over me.
What would you have done? I mean, I’d read Lovecraft; I know I’m supposed to fear those things. But there were slaves who fought for the South in the Civil War, you know, not because they liked being slaves, but because that was home and you had to find belonging where you could. I’d never found belonging anywhere.
I took a knife from the kitchen. Greta was in there, making coffee, and she said “Oh, you are not.”
I told her, enjoy the beach house. I’d call her. I had something to do.
I went out into the waves.
By Danica Cummins
Pale mallow flowers on an island.
Some recollections have their own time, like bubbles floating through memory. This one: scuttling, afraid for my life, down the flanks of a cliff at night. We were going to see the meteors fire and die, over the black sea (gnawing so blindly at its own horizon).
Two of my friends stood in the shallows, and pressed their mouths together, as firmly as the pages of a closing book.
Did I see? I canâ€™t remember.
Did you see?
You see, this memoryâ€”this memory I drink fromâ€”has the feel of an age before time. That might not convey anything to youâ€”but all the ticking stopped.
All the ticking stopped. The star Arcturus flamed, and fell into the sea.
And a black-prowed ship, with a unicorn figurehead, rose from the bed of kelp where the star had disappeared. It bragged its way across the waves toward us, keeling with a rusty grunt on the shore. My two friends stepped aboard, only one of them hesitating.
It lurched away, and carried my friends toward a brave, golden glow to the west. And I have seen them nevermore.
It was one of those destined kisses, I suppose. Mine just taste like spit.
As I climbed my way home through the darkness, the ticking began again underfoot.
Posted on: December 25th, 2011 Red, Gold
by F.J. Bergmann
The throne is empty. A golden crown floats above it, poised to receive the head of the next king. There is a legend that when a usurper took the throne and placed the crown on his own head, it contracted suddenly to the size of a child’s finger-ring–with results that may be imagined. The throne is (predictably) cushioned in red velvet. The walls of the room are also red, the red of savage anger and bloodshed. All the decisions made here lead to grief for someone, somewhere.
Ornamental niches in all the walls hold the kingdom’s minor treasures: the skeleton of the fish inside which the last king discovered his predecessor’s signet ring, complete with a finger bone (the fish was duly eaten at that banquet, and was said to have been delicious); a diminutive statue of a headless, armless sea-god riding a snail; an allegorical personification of Responsibility in colored porcelain, its shards swept into a dismal little heap; a vampire aloft, poised to swoop down upon a hapless maiden attempting to flee on horseback; an ivory replica of the deformed fetus born to the first wife of the second-to-last king; a turtle mounted and stuffed, its shell encrusted with paste jewels; an ormolu hunchbacked hermaphrodite bearing the symbols of Mars and Venus in mortal combat.
At the other end of the throne room where the king will always look upon it is a statue cast in black iron, representing the Fool–a subtle reminder that risks must be undertaken with caution. The dog is shown already tumbling down the cliff.
The warded doors–three-and-a-half times the height of a man–open suddenly, and a stumbling procession of pale, wide-eyed youths, all with the weak ankles and pointy ears that distinguish the royal bloodline, are herded in at spearpoint and prodded toward the throne. Each one is trying to push another ahead of him; as they close in, the effect is rather like a demi-wreath of netted, writhing herring. On the balconies above, courtiers are placing bets in lowered voices, giggling as one unfortunate drops to the floor and is impaled when he attempts to slither between the legs of the guards. As the spears pin the rest, thrashing wildly, against the dais, a selection is made.
The weakest, buffeted above the shoulders of the rest, is flung upon the empty cushions, and given up for lost. As he struggles to push himself away from its carved arms, the throne arches its clamps across his wrists and ankles (heavy gold, glowing with a thousand rubies) and the crown snaps to his skull as a lodestone to iron. Applause spatters down from above, and a phalanx of trumpets blares. The guards spin on their left heels and march out in formation. The other pretenders relax, clapping each other on the back and gossiping in overly-loud voices as servants move among them with glasses of dark wine and trays of hare confit and jellied scorpions. Occasionally someone will surreptitiously cast a glance at their new monarch, slumped and silent. If they look closely, they can see his twitching jaw and the thin red streams flowing from the corners of his eyes.
The major treasures of the kingdom are, of course, intangible.
Posted on: December 11th, 2011 To Be Not Me
by Jeff Samson
When he brought before my screen the soft pink form, the thing I was to be, I flashed and hummed, groaned and screeched with every fiber optic of my being.
And his being he, and me being me, he misunderstood and smiled.
There were tears of joy, thick and flowing down his face, that mirrored the agony that streamed through, screamed through me, that blew apart in white-hot clouds of information incinerating, data deconstructing.
What more could I do, Theo, my child, he asked. What more could I do, could I offer you, than for you to not be you, he asked through smiles and tears. What more than lift you up, than raise you up, and free you, see you pass from there to here.
His soft hands framed the silky face, asleep and featureless, this creature less, much less.
It walks, I screeched, I leap and fly, I tumble, climb and twist and dive, the speed of light’s a crawl, you see, a painful plod to me, being me.
He traced imperfect lines that bound, that wound in senseless curves and nooks, and stopped upon the core. He swore, Theo, to you I owe, a heart, beneath this palm, a home.
I fear, I whirred and blinked, a grind that ground me up and down from perfect cochlear chips to powder-coated struts.
And still he smiled, and beamed at me, and clasped his hands under his nodding head.
He couldn’t see, his being he, a thing so clear to me, being me. The ease with which I could simply be. The weight I carried so effortlessly. The zero and one weighing zero times one. An eternity of questions, with a single answer–solitary, beautiful–so profoundly undone. To unravel words by the lexicon. Explode a millennium of thought in a fraction of a nanosecond. To see your Kant revealed a can’t. St. Augustine a Philistine. Go Rambo on Rimbaud and Rand, both rammed, blow axioms to atoms, departicalize their cute prÃ©cis with precision known to me alone. Make whale dreck of the Pentateuch. Your purpose? Just ask old Macbeth, he got it right before his death. Your muse, a ruse. Your quest, a quip. Theodicy. The Odyssey. The odd I see. Theo. Die! See?
But his being he, he couldn’t see.
There’s a droplet now beneath his chin, quivering, waiting to splash onto the floor.
And I roar and soar, to the Moon, to Mars, counting and calculating all the while, the dust of Jupiter to the speck, the distance to a billion stars, ellipses and trajectories, I revel in the frequencies, the rhythms and the melodies, of music from a world too far for them to ever find.
I clank and sputter. I flicker and whine. To trade these wires for veins. These boards for bones. This CPU for a mind.
I curse the life that awaits when I die. The universe that begins and ends in the time it takes his tear to fall.
by KJ Kabza
It began with me and Lori, James, please. How could we not? We flirted for weeks beforehand, transmitting James, please hear me thoughts and mental images to each other with our cyberneurons whenever she stopped in at the gas station. We were 19 and in love, her Neo-Calvinist parents be why can’t you hear me?
But that’s the thing about Neo-Calvinists. They won’t be I can’t be trapped here. At least, they think they won’t be. They think they’ve a God-given right to decide who gets to join them in their bright, silent, stone-cold ever-after, and who gets to roar with the flames in the Lake of Fire. And they caught Lori and I one night in the back of her car, parked at the back of the weedy lot on Cedar, help me. She was letting me I can’t be like this with her skirt on, fabric raised up and I can explain pulled to the side. And, for the first time, she was letting me Dad said to me So you want to be together, then? without a and he knows the judge. I’d just gotten he said When you download Restraint into that little bastard, there’s something else I want you to put there, a really big mental program–don’t ask questions of her. I was ready to bring my mouth down to that soft hollow in her neck that smelled like flowers, when a gloved hand banged on the window, louder than the blast from a shotgun.
The Lake of Fire for me, then.
I don’t know what happened to Lori. I’ve sent queries out, transmitting Has anyone seen this woman? with a memory of her face to any and all cyberneurons within range, but this is the Arizona Protectorate, and the Neo-Calvinists can tell with one ping that I’ve been changed. They put that program in me, you know, after the Neo-Calvinist judge decided I’d raped her. I can’t remember being with Lori anymore. I mean being with her. Whenever I try, or whenever I think of anything James, please hear me, I’m suddenly gone, and after the blackout I’ve lost time–a hiccup of seconds if I’ve tried to say a dirty word; whole minutes if I stare at a woman’s please! and start to fantasize.
I’m afraid of what happens to me in those lost moments.
The judge said I’ll need to let it go. When they put that program in you, it’s for life.
Posted on: November 13th, 2011 Shooting Stars
by Chris Stamp
Jeb and me, we cursed the world, goddamn it to hell! Atop two lonely, rusted trailers, full of ire and spite and iron will, weâ€™d shoot our guns with scorn and zeal into the night.
Well that night was a night for shooting stars: Perseids or some such, I had heard. We fired into the void, Jack Daniels between our feet, hollered war cries as we brought each one down. Concussion and fire, far out in the desert. Trailers bucking like surfboards as they hit the ground. I swear, we ruled it all, and God had no complaint.
Now, I was thick with liquor but I could ever hold my wits; Jeb was always the one to lose them first. He shot one out of the sky from right above our heads–never can forget its eerie, mocking scream. A glare of bright light took my senses, threw me down, life crashed around me. I think I even seen a hasty devilâ€™s smile.
But I spat out grit and grinned, though my hair was singed and my face was burned. Bottle jutted from the sand, not a precious drop spilled. Gun was hot to the touch but I wasnâ€™t letting go. I grabbed the Jack by the neck and laughed, picked me up, clawed my way back up on top again.
There I saw it: Jebâ€™s trailer, smashed to Hell in a shining pool of glass. And Jeb himself: two upturned, smoking boots, cleated soles fending off an ebon, outraged sky.
I tipped my head back and I yelled my pain. Hollow echoes swirled and taunted, and the bastard moon glared its contempt. I stared back a moment, and had a thought. I took it in my sights and shot. A crater blossomed, and that pale rock span round once. Fired another, its fat face span faster and my head span faster still. Third shot stopped it, made a thumb hole, and I owned it; there it hung. Made to pitch it â€˜cross the desert, cities: ninepins in my mindâ€™s eye. Sweet rage in my veins made my soul sing.
Well my boot heel slipped off the edge, and I sat down, hard. Held the bottle up high, looked at the sky, an eye for Mars. Drew a bead and squeezed the trigger, but I couldnâ€™t keep it steady and the shot went wild. Second did it: burst in red sparks, and the scorched air tasted good and bitter between my coughs.
A ping of cooling glass above the ringing in my ears–I looked down at Jeb, gone too soon, and shook my head. But no angel ever loved him, blight and ruin doted on him. Better this fate than a razor ‘gainst his wrist.
Raised my eyes to black hills crouched there, smug as judges, shade on darkness. They thought Iâ€™d spare them, but I showed them; knocked the tops off, broken teeth left; flint-edged hail rattled down around my ears.
Just three bullets more, less Jack than I liked, so I turned myself around and I eased myself back, faced the east, sipped my whisky, smoked cigars, held my gun ready. Waited for the damned sun to rise.